The Ministry of Health said yesterday it is looking for people who may have come into contact with a four-year-old tourist, who was hospitalized in Nassau with a confirmed case of measles, the first in the country since 1997.
“What we will do, and what we have done, is to look for potential contacts,” said Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pearl McMillan at a press conference at the Ministry of Health.
“We know that there was travel into the country, so we will begin from on arrival.
“We will look at all of the potential places where the child would have gone, and then we will look at the potential contacts in that particular place.
“Then we will go ahead and ask them, those that are at highest risk for having been exposed, to provide for us some evidence that they would have been immunized, [whether] they had measles or they had the vaccine, but we have a list of criteria that we will use to determine whether or not they require the vaccine.
“We have enough vaccine. We will be immunizing persons who are potentially at risk.”
Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands confirmed the measles case yesterday.
“The test results received today have confirmed measles,” he said.
Sands would not say where the child was being kept, noting only that he was hospitalized in Nassau.
He said the disease was likely not contracted in The Bahamas. The child traveled from Europe, officials said.
“The timeline of travel and illness onset strongly suggests that the child’s exposure to measles occurred prior to arrival in The Bahamas,” he said.
Measles is known to be very contagious.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes, “Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, 90 percent of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected.”
Sands expressed concern over the current level of vaccine coverage in the country, noting that at least 95 percent is necessary for herd immunity, but that there was only 91 percent coverage in 2017.
However, he said the ministry is already working to address the issue.
“The ministry is currently conducting an MMR campaign targeting all children 10 years and younger as well as frontline workers such as police, customs and immigration officers, healthcare workers and hospitality industry workers,” he said.
“The aim is to increase the national MMR coverage in children and the persons at highest risk for exposure.
“Government clinics will provide increased access to vaccines by extending immunization sessions through opening hours.
“Additionally, schools, workplaces and planned community events will also be outreach sites.”
Asked what can be done to prevent vaccine-preventable diseases from being imported into the country by foreigners, Sands said herd immunity is the best defense.
“If we get back up to 95, 96, 97 percent, there is no incubating space,” he said.
“There is no population to spread the disease, so it simply fizzles out.”
McMillan said, “We will not close our borders, but the best way to prevent us having a big problem associated with an imported case is by ensuring our vaccine coverage is above 95 percent.”
Education: Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish